Implications and challenges for research-practice partnerships: The case of a mentoring program with unaccompanied youths
WORKSHOP LED BY XAVIER ALARCON & NÚRIA MARTÍNEZ
Xavier Alarcon is PhD candidate in University of Girona and his research is focused in the transition to adulthood of former unaccompanied youngsters, concretely in the absence or presence of formal and informal mentoring relationships in this life stage. He finished bachelor’s degree studies on Social Work in Universitat Rovira i Virigli, and master’s degree on Youth and Society in the University of Girona. His experience on mentoring began in a nightingale program, monitoring relationships as a practitioner. Also, he was collaborating on the development of a mentoring program coordinated by the Catalan Government with refugee mentees, which was the first experience in Spain on groups of mentoring.
Núria Martínez is currently working as mentoring coordinator in Punt de Referència, an association that works with foster care and youngsters after foster care and its mission is to promote their emancipation. She coordinates Referents, a mentoring program for former wards of state and at risk of social exclusion. She is a social psychologist with a master on Social Intervention awarded by Universitat de Barcelona. Referents is focus about how mentoring and bonds of trust can accommodate the emancipation process. As Punt de Referència, she believes in a respectful and positive support as a way to make a difference, not just to individuals, but also to society.
This paper describes an experience resulting from the collaboration between mentoring program practitioners and researchers in the Recercaixa grant framework. Developing a model of research-practice partnership involving researchers and practitioners is necessary to shed some light on what practices and discussions may improve the effectiveness of such programs. However, it is known that partnerships could bring disagreements and dissents on the researched topic. In this paper, the partnership is outlined as a process that could reconcile potentially conflicting goals: On the one hand, how this experience may guarantee an empowerment approach for mentees and mentors during the development of fieldwork instead of a stigmatized approach. On the other hand, how this collaboration promotes learning among practitioners and researchers so mentoring organizations and universities can incorporate the research as a tool for improvement of their practice. This experience also pretends to discuss about the practical implications and challenges in a research-practice partnership for practitioners and researchers: what are their roles? What type of work everyone does? How both agents can benefit from this mutual collaboration? We think that the insights and learnings from one specific experience with unaccompanied youth may be useful to enable new research-practice partnerships as well as for improving the existing ones.